Peyton Manning's historic season didn't end the way he wanted it to, but the man who just set an NFL record with 55 touchdown passes in the 2013 regular season is good to go for his 2014 campaign, according to doctors. Manning underwent four neck surgeries (including a fusion procedure) in 2011, and it was contingent in the contract he signed with the Broncos on March 20, 2012 that he pass a physical every year. He passed the first on Mar. 13, 2013, and passed the most recent one on Monday morning, per Mike Klis of the Denver Post. With that done, Manning and his agent Tom Condon will go through the formalities of guaranteeing his $20 million salary for the upcoming season.
In 2013, Manning had one of the best seasons any quarterback has ever had -- certainly his best, and that's saying something for a lead-pipe lock future Hall of Famer and one of the greatest at his position in NFL history. At 37 years of age, he also had unquestionably the best "old QB" season ever, completing 450 passes in 659 attempts for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns. He was the NFL's Most Valuable Player in the AP and PFWA awards, won the Bert Bell Award as Player of the Year, and won the AP Offensive Player of the Year, as well.
Leading up to the Super Bowl, which his Broncos lost to the Seattle Seahawks in a 43-8 thrashing, Manning talked about the road back from those surgeries.
"A lot of people say it’s not a major surgery unless it is your own," he said on Jan. 29. "When you are dealing with a neck surgery, I think it is pretty serious stuff. My brother, Cooper, dealt with neck surgeries and injuries as a high school and college player, and had to give up football. That made a big impact on my life. I remember at the time, when Cooper got injured, they did a test on me and Eli. I would have been a junior in high school and Eli would have been a sixth-grader, or something. They said our necks weren’t picture perfect and didn’t look ideal, but they’re stable enough to keep playing football. Cooper had to give up playing football. In some ways, when I had my neck problems, I thought maybe I had been on borrowed time this entire time. I was fortunate to have 20 years of health to play football. If that was going to be the end of it because of a neck injury, I really, believe it or not, had a peace about it.
"I’ve had this unbelievable string of health to play 20 years of football -- high school, college and pro ball -- and I was fortunate for that. Once I had the surgery and went to the doctors for the checkups, I remember I had a physical around this time when the Giants and Patriots were playing in the Super Bowl, and the doctor said, ‘Your neck is secure.’ He said, ‘I’d let you play Super Bowl Sunday and if you were my own son, I’d let you play.’ As soon as the doctor told me that, that was the end of it for me on the neck discussion. Now, it was simply a matter of performance. Could I get my strength back to play quarterback at the level I thought a team deserved?”
Needless to say, he could. Now, for Manning and the Broncos, it's all about rallying and trying to see if their veteran quarterback can't go out a Super Bowl winner, just like John Elway did for this same franchise.
“The philosophy is we want to continue to win from now on," Elway, now the team's president/GM John Elway said at the scouting combine when asked about the imperative to keep the team competitive at the end of Manning's career. "Everyone talks about winning now and I keep saying we want to win from now on. We are going to have the same philosophy every year that we are going to go and do the best we can with the money we have and the cap space that we have to be able to create the team that’s going to be able to compete for a world championship. With Peyton, there is no question, you never know how much longer he’s going to be around. ... That is why the draft is so important for us. [So that] when Peyton decides to walk away, we are still very competitive.” Manning's contract runs through the 2016 season. He would have base salaries of $19 million in each of those seasons, should he choose to play.